Nik Novicki Uses Competition to Get Better Representation for People With Disabilities
Actor and comedian Nic Novicki (“Saturday Night Live,” “Boardwalk Empire”) is leading the charge for better Hollywood representation of people with disabilities via the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge. Now in its fifth year, the competition will run April 13-15, and asks filmmakers to create a three- to five-minute project that involves people with disabilities. Films will be judged by a panel of industry professionals.
What inspired you to create the Disability Film Challenge?
One in five people has a disability, but we’re not seen in enough TV shows and films; we’re in less than 3% of film and TV. As an actor with a disability, I was like, “Look, there’s not enough opportunity,” so I began producing my own content. Five years ago, I noticed a lot of people with disabilities weren’t producing our own content, and the numbers were staying the same. I was kind of fed up, and I created the Disability Film Challenge.
What’s your No. 1 goal for the event?
It would be to create more opportunities for people with disabilities in front of and behind the camera and, in turn, change the way the world defines and views disabilities through storytelling.
I feel like features are going to be made from it. Already we’re seeing people get cast in TV shows and films, and I think that’s going to happen more and more, because we’re growing each year.
Do you feel like you had a tougher time in your career than other actors?
Yeah. I think in general acting is tough; it’s hard no matter what you look like. I’ve been lucky that I’ve been in over 40 TV shows and movies — “Boardwalk Empire,” “The Sopranos,” “Drop Dead Diva.” But even with my success, I’m three foot ten, so I’ve been limited in the opportunities that are out there, which is kind of what inspired me to produce my own content. I learned early on that if I wanted to play the romantic lead or the gangster, I had to produce it myself through short films, through web series, through pilot presentations. And I think that’s what’s so important about the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge.